Jesus Christ before Caiaphas, c. 1553

Friday, June 10th 2022

by Giovanni Battista Franco, aka Il Semolei

Giovanni Battista Franco, aka Il Semolei (Venice, before 1510-1561)

Jesus Christ before Caiaphas, c. 1553

Oil on canvas.
A "P.&D. Colnaghi & Co. Ltd 14 Old Bond Street Londres" sticker on the back of the frame.
Numbered "E5862" in chalk on the frame.

Height 47.6" Width 59".

Lot essay by Cabinet Turquin

Most of Venetian-born Battista Franco’s career was spent in Rome and Urbino. His arrival in the City of Popes in 1530 marks his discovery of the work of Michelangelo, which had a lasting influence on his own. In 1536, he contributed to the highly elaborated decor complementing Charles V triumphal entry into Rome before collaborating with Vasari on the preparations for the Florence weddings of Alessandro de' Medici to Margaret of Austria (1536) and of Cosimo I de' Medici to Eleanor of Toledo (1539).

Franco then went back to Rome where he painted frescoes for the oratory of San Giovanni Decollato. After a brief stay in Urbino, he returned to Venice where his growing reputation earned him prestigious commissions, either public - for the Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Library (Libreria Vecchia) - or from important patrons like the Grimani family. He died in 1561 before finishing the decoration of Villa Foscari built by Andrea Palladio. Franco was also a major etcher whose "Flagellation of Christ" and "Resurrection of Lazarus" prints include compact groups of figures very similar to those found in our painting.

Vasari, who dedicated one of his Lives to Franco, mentions several works illustrating The Life of Jesus Christ as well as commissions from German clients for the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. According to him, the taste of the latter would explain the Nordic nature of some of Il Semolei's late paintings.

Our painting marks a pivotal episode in the evolution of Venetian painting, when Venice first encountered the influence of the "maniera" of central Italy that became part of its own tradition. In this work, painted around 1552-1553, Franco brilliantly blends a classic monumental Roman composition with a distinctive Venetian mannerism akin to Andrea Schiavone or Giuseppe Salviati Porta’s styles: see his use of vivid colors, vibrant luminism, and theatrical lighting. "A painting like "Jesus Christ before Caiaphas", which was auctioned off at Sotheby's in 1972, demonstrates the painter’s readiness to receive influences from the young Paolo Veronese, with whom he shares similarities when it comes to the use of light and silvery colors" (Luciano Bellosi, op. cit.).
Subscribe to our newsletter:
Follow us: